Two Reasons I Am Giving Spending Towards Hilton Diamond Status A Hard Pass

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Lifetime Hilton Diamond Status

Lifetime Hilton Diamond Status Via Credit Card Spend

American Express made some major moves last week, refreshing many of their cards to help cardholders during the pandemic.  There was a lot of good stuff to unpack from their announcement but I want to focus on their Hilton credit card changes. The headliner of the news was that people would be earning 12X at grocery stores with the Aspire and Surpass cards. Being able to spend your Aspire resort credit at restaurants this year was another huge perk.  But buried in the footnotes was the chance to chase lifetime Hilton Diamond status via credit card spend.

Lifetime Hilton Diamond Status

Hilton offers members a chance at lifetime Hilton Diamond status once they reach a few milestones:

  • Earn Hilton Diamond status for 10 (non-consecutive) years as well as one of the following:
  • Complete 1,000 paid and reward night stays OR
  • Earn 2,000,000 base points

With the recent changes members have an opportunity on their hands to take advantage of lifetime status. Until December 31st all points earned through card purchases will be considered base points, counting toward elite qualification, including Lifetime Diamond Status. That would include the new 12X earning rate at grocery stores, pretty amazing.

Lifetime Hilton Diamond Status
Lovely sunset at the Hilton Waikoloa, courtesy of the Aspire resort credit!

2 Reasons I Am Passing On Chasing Lifetime Status

All of this sounds like a great opportunity so why am I not chasing lifetime Hilton status? There are two main reasons why I am passing.

The 10 Year Requirement

If you are road warrior and have earned Diamond status for years then you may look at this differently.  If you are not a road warrior then you are probably in the same boat as me. I am on my 3rd year of Diamond status and should have a 4th year next year because of status extensions. Those are all from carrying the Aspire card.  Even next year is technically because I carried the Aspire card this year and it was extended till next year. Even though I downgraded my Aspire last month.

Since Hyatt is my preferred hotel brand I will never come close to hitting status with Hilton through stays.  I will maintain Gold status every year via the Surpass card which comes with the status and a $95 annual fee. But if I wanted to chase lifetime Hilton Diamond status that would mean 6 more years of paying the Aspire annual fee at $450 (I wouldn’t be surprised to see this rise to $550 at some point).  That is another $2700 in annual fees.

Now granted, that is being simplistic since there are a lot of perks to offset that fee.  But that means I need to carry the card so it will be money flowing out.  With Amex becoming more of a pain in the butt about airline incidental credits I don’t know if I want to carry the card, or at least not all of the time.  I will upgrade my card when upgrade offers come but I am not sure if I want to carry it every year, even though I still think it is a great card.  Maybe if I lined up a ton of Hilton stays etc. I would find it valuable here and there.

Is It That Much Better Than Gold?

A secondary question to this would be, is it that much better than Gold status?  I find that the most important stuff, free breakfast and possible upgrade, comes with Gold status too.  You are not guaranteed lounge access but some hotels will still give it to you, especially internationally.

So what is Diamond really worth? I don’t think I have received anything all that amazing as a member for 3 years.  When I compare it to the Gold status I carried for 4 years before that, I think Gold is comparable. Plus Gold can be had for only $95 a year with the Surpass card.  That means I could pay for 27 years of Gold status with that $2700 in annual fees it is going to cost me to reach 10 years of Diamond status.

via GIPHY 

Is American Express Setting Us Up?

I can’t help but feel like this is a trap set up by Amex.  It is no secret they have been cracking down hard on anything that is considered gaming in terms of credits.  Is spend their next area of attack?  Is this 12X earning offer a ploy to weed out serial spenders?

Let’s say American Express buys Hilton points at $0.002, the value you can get cashing them out on Amazon, that is a cost of $0.024 for them at 12X.  That means these purchases are likely going to be costing them money.

People will say well I have been doing it at 6X for years. Well yeah, but 6X is not 12X.  With the same numbers those points came at a cost to Amex of $0.012.  They would be making money on each purchase at those rates so maybe they looked the other way.

I think chasing your $15K in spend for the Surpass free night or something similar wouldn’t be an issue at 12X.  But if you are going for the $166,667 in spend needed to hit 2 million points for Diamond status I have to imagine a shutdown hammer is on the way.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes in this game we are like a kid wanting that shiny new toy.  It isn’t because we truly need it or even find a ton of value in it.  We simply chase it because we can. That is a dangerous area to live in.  It leads to irrational decision making which in turns leads to spending more time and money on something than it is actually worth.

So I encourage you to really sit back and think, what is lifetime Hilton Diamond status really worth to me? And how likely is it that American Express and Hilton allow me to achieve it via credit card spend? If you are a road warrior with the 10 years already under your belt but just short a little bit on the points you may answer these questions differently.

Share your thoughts in the comments section. Are you going after lifetime Hilton Diamond status?

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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10 COMMENTS

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10 COMMENTS

    • I probably took it too far. I doubt they set up the promo to do it but I do think they will be paying attention to who spends a lot using it. It would be ludicrous to think otherwise with their recent moves.

  1. I don’t think those Diamond status you get for having the CCs count toward 10 years of earning Diamond.

    • That could be the case – I am not sure that anyone knows for sure since their Diamond lifetime tracker is not set up yet.

  2. If you upgrade back to the Aspire in the future, wouldn’t you be precluded from receiving any “bonus” points, since you’ve already had the card?

    • Upgrade offers do not have the lifetime terminology that welcome offers do. They are a great way to get an offer on a card more than once.

  3. If I downgrade my Aspire, what happens to my free weekend night certificates? Do I lose them or will they still be valid till the expiration date? Thanks for helping me figure this out.

    • You should still keep them – they are not attached to the card. As long as they are from your previous annual fee and not this year’s annual fee etc. Amex may charge you for it if you wait till you get your free night (3 months after paying) and then downgrade the card.

  4. Mark, good approach, and you’re right, not a great fit for many out there. I personally WILL be shifting some spend to my Surpass card for 3 reasons…
    1. I am a road warrior, but expect it to stop in about 3 years. I should be fine on the 10 years, but I may be a bit shy of the 1000 nights in a few years, but may be close on 2 mil points when counting this.
    2. I already max my $25K on Amex Gold, and will max out the CSR 5X points for next 2 months also since limit is so low at $1500/month, so I’ll then put the rest on the Surpass.
    3. Between the 12X and the free night at $15K, it’s worth it for me to hit the $15K – I likely won’t go any higher. But $15K at 12X points, when combined with the free night gets me 3 free nights at a Waldorf…not bad…

    • Makes perfect sense and well thought out reasoning Kyle. I plan on shooting for the $15K as well – or what I left to spend towards it at least.

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